AP audit reveals alleged police department embezzlement exceeded initial estimates

A recent accounts payable audit found that the alleged embezzlement of parking citation revenues from California's Santa Barbara Police Department (SBPD) significantly exceeded projected losses, Noozhawk reports.

When the SBPD's former business manager was arrested eight months ago in connection with the misappropriation, it was believed she had stolen approximately $200,000. However, the AP audit has since determined that more than $500,000 was taken from the department.

Karen Flores, a civilian employee of the SBPD for more than two decades, allegedly began the embezzlement scheme in 2006, according to a criminal complaint cited by the news source. Following her arrest, she was charged with grand theft by embezzlement, destroying parking citations, filing false income tax returns over a three-year period and the felony of public officer crime for abusing her responsibility to uphold the safekeeping of public money.

"The nature of her position made it a lot easier to find the opportunities where money could be taken," said Santa Barbara finance director Bob Samario, as quoted by the media outlet.

Samario added that although the department ultimately identified the discrepancies and subsequently launched a recovery audit, the process was made more difficult by the fact that the alleged culprit was in a position of authority and used this to manipulate records and cover her tracks. 

Although it's believed that the city's insurance policy will cover the purported embezzlement, officials must first pinpoint exactly how much money was misappropriated.

"(Santa Barbara has) a long way to go before we get insurance to agree what the loss really is, and what's attributable to her," Samario said.

Flores, who was arrested in August of last year, initially confessed to stealing $100,000, according to the Santa Barbara Independent.

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